|Men praying on Patrick Street, Cork|
I had a few duties: I interviewed Valerie Trueblood; I was on a panel discussing story anthologies (see pics in previous post); and I introduced Valerie and Yiyun Li's Friday night reading. It's always an absolute pleasure to be involved and I thoroughly enjoyed all of it. My interview with Valerie was enlightening - she has such original ideas about the short story. I encourage you to read her essay 'What's the Story? Aspects of the Form' here.
Apart from being a fantastic writer and essayist, Valerie is also a really nice person. We emailed each other in the six weeks prior to the festival in preparation for the interview (a lot of which can be found here - Elizabeth Murray live-blogged the festival). Valerie came bearing gifts: a limited edition of Eudora Welty's first published story, 'Death of a Traveling Salesman'; a book for my kids about a mouse called Whitefoot; and a bread cloth, woven from natural cotton by her friend (how did she know that I bake?!). It was so sweet of her and I was touched.
|The bread cloth|
Valerie Trueblood read her story 'Trespass' which is about a heart doctor grieving for his Russian girlfriend Katya who recently died of a heart condition. The story is also about marriage breakdown, infidelity and suspicion. It's moving and funny and Valerie read it brilliantly. People were stunned when it emerged afterwards that this was her first public reading. Ever.
I won't recount the discussion on short story anthologies because, again, Elizabeth has blogged it here. And let it suffice to say that Colm Tóibín (surely the most fluent and affable man of letters in the world?) and Edna gave impeccable readings. The house was packed for that one and Edna got a standing ovation afterwards, which was nice. She looked regal in black and she read her story 'Old Wounds'; her voice was clear and hypnotic; she read enthusiastically and convincingly.
Every evening we adjourned to the Boqueria for wine and tapas and I caught up with friends made online and at previous visits to the Cork Festival, including writers Tania Hershman and Alison MacLeod. Alison gave a great reading from her BBC National Story Prize shortlisted story, the astonishing 'The Heart of Denis Noble'. Listen to the story here (only until tomorrow) read by Tim Piggott Smith who, someone remarked, 'sounds like God' (he does!). You can also buy the story here along with the other shortlisted stories. The winner of the £15,000 prize will be announced next Monday the 26th September. I, of course, want Alison to win. Her story really is remarkable and I loved hearing from her how it all came about. She will be in converstion with the man she based the story on, the biologist Denis Noble, at Small Wonder next weekend.
I managed my annual trip to Café Paradiso (nom-nom). And to the Crawford Gallery and its equally nom-nom-ish café, with Órfhlaith Foyle, FOC shortlistee Suzanne Rivecca and my husband. Suzanne is so physically like one of my heroines, Frida Kahlo, that I wanted to stick skull earrings in her ears and flowers in her hair, to complete the look. She says she has been taken for Mexican before but not necessarily Frida. Suzanne is currently on a year-long residency in Rome to write a novel. Aren't the Americans generous to their writers? Arts Council take note.
|Re-release of To The World of Men, Welcome - paperback & expanded|
Alan Hayes of Arlen House also gave me my ten author copies of the paperback and newly expanded edition of my second short story collection, To The World of Men, Welcome. Excitement! Giveaway shortly, so watch this space!
There is only one thing wrong with the Cork International Short Story Festival and that is it is EXHAUSTING! Everywhere I went there were yawning, hollow-eyed writers, sipping coffee and sneaking off for power naps between events. You need stamina and we all pulled energy from somewhere in our enthsiasm for readings and discussions and dissections of all we had heard.
The festival is to be congratulated for being a fearless supporter of women writers. Women dominated both the readings and the Frank O'Connor Award shortlist. It is so refreshing and it means that I get to meet the most talented, sweetest women writers around.
It's very hard to blog a whole festival afterwards. You want to tell everything but you can't because a) long blog posts are annoying, and b) it's impossible to remember it all, even with a notebook stuffed with scribbles. I hope this has captured a little of how great it was and that you story lovers might think about going to Cork next September when it will happen all over again.
See the Irish Times and The Examiner for good coverage of Edna's win. Congrats to Patrick Cotter, Jen Matthews, the board of Munster Lit and their team for pulling off another great festival. It gets better and better and better. Well done, all.